Possessing small amounts marijuana would no longer come with the threat of jail time if a Texas Democratic representative—and the state’s Republican Party—have their way.
On Monday, the pre-filing period for the upcoming 2019 legislative session, which begins in January, kicked off, and one of the first bills put forward is a proposal to decriminalize cannabis.
“Civil penalty legislation is the first thing I’ve filed on the first day of filing for the 86th Session. There’s been an incredible swell of bipartisan support since last session, and the official Texas Republican and Democratic platforms both approve of this kind of reform now,” Rep. Joe Moody, the bill’s sponsor, said in a press release. “I’m optimistic that this will be the session we finally see smarter, fairer marijuana laws in Texas.”
“We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” the state GOP platform now reads.
Advocates believe that 2019 could finally be the year for far-reaching marijuana reform in Texas.
“The time has come for marijuana law reform,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said. “Over the last several years, we’ve seen increasing support and this legislative session offers a unique opportunity for reform. Just as support for reform transcends partisan politics among Texas voters, we also see unprecedented bipartisan support at the Capitol.”
During a debate with his reelection opponent in September, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for the first time expressed openness to marijuana law reform.
“One thing I don’t want to see is jails stockpiled with people who have possession of a small amount of marijuana,” he said.
“I would be open to talking to the legislature about reducing the penalty for [marijuana] possession of two ounces or less from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor,” Abbott said.
While that would fall short of the decriminalization proposal put forth by Moody and supported by advocates, it signals that cannabis reform is now possible in the Lone Star State.
Moody’s bill would eliminate the threat of arrest, jail time and a criminal record for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana.
Several other pieces of marijuana legislation were also pre-filed on Monday, including several to expand the state’s existing very limited medical cannabis program, one of which would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide on in 2019.
This piece was updated to note that other cannabis-related bills have also been introduced.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Five out of six Ohio cities that had local marijuana decriminalization measures on the ballot have passed the initiatives, including in the state’s sixth most populous city.
Decriminalization passed in Dayton, Fremont, Norwood, Oregon and Windham. Voters in Garrettsville rejected the local measure, though.
Currently, getting caught possessing up to 200 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor in Ohio, punishable by a $150 to $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail, depending on the exact amount. These measures won’t affect state law, but it will help protect cannabis consumers in municipalities that approve the initiatives through local ordinances.
Here’s the text of each measure.
PASSED—Dayton: “Shall the Dayton Revised Code of General Ordinances be amended to decriminalize specific misdemeanor marijuana and hashish offenses?”
PASSED—Fremont: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
Some Sandusky County election surprises (unofficial results): Judge Robert Hart loses; health dept levy fails; Fremont passes ordinance for $0 fines for marijuana violations. Stories to come at https://t.co/PEercboVYF. @nmnow
REJECTED—Garrettsville: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
Garrettsville has rejected passage of an ordinance relaxing sentencing for misdemeanor marijuana possession with 471 in favor of it and 515 against, according to the Portage County Board of Elections' tally with two or two precincts counted. #rcnow
PASSED—Norwood: “Shall the proposed ordinance adding Section 513.15 Marijuana Laws and Penalties to the City of Norwood Municipal Code, which would lower the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law, be adopted?”
PASSED—Oregon: “Shall the proposed Sensible Marihuana Ordinance which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by state law be adopted?”
PASSED—Windham: “Shall the proposed ordinance to lower the penalties for misdemeanor marihuana offenses to the lowest penalties allowed by state law be adopted?”
Windham has approved passage of an ordinance relaxing sentencing for misdemeanor marijuana possession with 237 votes (53.5 percent) in favor of it and 206 (46.5 percent) against, according to the Portage County Board of Elections' tally with two or two precincts counted. #rcnow
The bill would impose fines, rather than criminal penalties, on individuals who possess or consume cannabis. First-time offenders would be fined 1,000 shekels ($275), second-time offenders would face a 2,000 shekel ($550) fine and third-time offenders would be given an option of admitting fault and paying a higher fine or completing community service—or they could ask to be sentenced. Any additional violations would be considered criminal offenses.
There is a caveat to the three-strikes rule, however. There’s a five-year window after each offense—so if you’re caught possessing cannabis more than five years after your first offense, for example, it will count as a first offense again.
The bill will not apply to minors, soldiers, prisoners or individuals convicted of other criminal charges, Arutz Sheva 7 reported.
The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee unanimously approved votes on second and third readings of the bill on Monday. It will now head back for a full Knesset vote later this week. (The bill passed unanimously during its first reading in March).
According to a government press release, concerns laid out by lawmakers and law enforcement officials were rejected by the committee. Some lawmakers argued that the fines were too steep and the five-year window between offenses ought to be shortened. Others, including committee chair Elie Elalouf (Kulanu), voiced concerns about the lack of judicial discretion provided to courts when it comes to marijuana-related convictions.
“I fear that due to the fine amount and the lack of feasibility of exercising discretion, the judges will decide not to convict the defendant at all,” Elalouf said.
The head of Israel’s “Green Leaf” party, Oren Leibovitz, said that Israel was “on the way to complete legalization.” That message evoked a warning from Yoel Hadar, the legal advisor to the Ministry of the Public Security, who said that if the decriminalization bill was exploited and “transformed into a tool for legalization,” the government might not extend the law.
The way the bill is currently written, marijuana decriminalization would be treated as a three-year pilot program, after which the government will determine whether or not to continue the policy.
The current status of marijuana in Israel
Israel is known globally as a leader in cannabis research. It was one of the first countries to permit medical marijuana, with at least 30,000 registered patients currently enrolled in its program. While recreational marijuana use remains illegal, some like Leibovitz view the decriminalization bill as a step toward full legalization.
The country had a plan to export its medical cannabis—a plan that would have generated over $1 billion per year, according to one estimate—but it was derailed earlier this year. There have been several reports stating that opposition from the Trump administration was the deciding factor for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Netanyahu told the heads of the ministries he ordered the freeze after receiving a call about the issue of exporting marijuana from Trump, who is against its legalization,” The Times of Israel reported in February.
Is Bernie Sanders on board with legalizing not just marijuana but other drugs like cocaine and heroin?
“We need to have an understanding that prohibition against alcohol did not work in the 1920s, and prohibition against marijuana and other drugs is not working today,” he said on Friday. “So it has to be rethought in a very, very fundamental way.”
Decrying the “insanity of this so-called war on drugs,” the independent senator from Vermont said that “if we’re serous about understanding a failed and collapsing criminal justice system, ending the war on drugs is an important part of it.”
He made the comments during a live discussion broadcast on his Facebook page:
Generally decrying the failure of the “war on drugs” is not an uncommon refrain for major politicians these days, but Sanders’s specific reference to the failure of “prohibition” of drugs beyond cannabis suggests that he might be in favor of allowing the use and regulated production of more currently illegal substances.
And it isn’t the first time that the senator, who became the first major presidential candidate to endorse marijuana legalization during his 2016 bid, has appeared to call for the end of prohibition of non-cannabis drugs.
In a 1972 letter, he seemed to endorse broader legalization, writing:
“There are entirely too many laws that regulate human behavior. Let us abolish all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or ‘right’ on people. Let’s abolish all laws dealing with…drugs…”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who campaigned on a drug policy reform platform and after the election moved to drop pending marijuana cases, was also part of the Facebook discussion with Sanders.
Earlier this year, Sanders launched a petition saying that the “criminal justice system is not the answer to drug abuse,” but it did not explicitly call for drug legalization.
Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is the latest public official to endorse significant marijuana law reforms after leaving office.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.”
Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), is joining the Board of Advisors of Acreage Holdings, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses across the U.S.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
In a tweet, Boehner, who did not endorse marijuana law reform while serving as the House’s top official, said he now supports removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a process known as descheduling.
In a 2011 letter to a constituent, the speaker wrote, “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug. I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
But now, Boehner says that he and Weld will advise Acreage on navigating confusing and conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.
“When it comes to an issue like this, that has what I’ll call murky legal issues and political issues, we’re there to provide advice to Acreage in terms of how they work with state and federal governments, how they work with local governments and advice on what states look promising,” he told Bloomberg.
The former top GOP official is critical of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to reverse Obama-era guidance that generally allowed states to implement their own cannabis policies without federal interference.
“When I saw the announcement, I almost chuckled to myself,” Boehner said. “I don’t know why they decided to do this. It could be that the attorney general is trying to force the Congress to act.”
Boehner is not the first high-ranking public official to endorse marijuana law reform after he no longer has the power to do anything about it.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, said that marijuana should be rescheduled shortly after leaving office.
In a press release about their joining Acreage, Boehner and Weld, who was the Libertarian Party’s 2016 vice-presidential nominee, said the following:
“While we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy. Over the past 20 years a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the 10th amendment. During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy. Also, during this period, the public perception of cannabis has dramatically shifted, with 94% of Americans currently in favor of some type of access, a shift driven by increased awareness of marijuana’s many medical applications.
“We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments. Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.
“While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the Federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug: most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.
“We are excited to join the team at Acreage in pursuit of their mission to bring safe, consistent and reliable products to patients and consumers who could benefit. We have full confidence in their management team and believe this is the team that will transform the debate, policy and landscape around this issue.”
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below: